FRANCE

‘Your clothing bothers me!’ Video shows Islamophobia on Paris train

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As in the wake of the deadly Charlie Hebdo shootings in January, the latest terrorist attacks in Paris have been followed by a surge in Islamophobic acts. This amateur video, filmed November 18 in a Paris region train, shows one such incident.

The video, filmed discreetly by a passenger, was blurred by France 24 to protect the identity of the people who appear in it. The footage shows a seated man, whose back is to the camera. Facing him is a woman, who is yelling at him and insulting the manner in which he is dressed. The bearded man is wearing a beanie cap, and a qarmis, a long shirt traditionally worn by Muslim men, usually to go the mosque. (The qarmis is not visible in the video, but witnesses described the scene to France 24.)

The woman verbally attacks him, saying she feels insulted by what he is wearing – even though his outfit is rather common in France. The man keeps his cool and tries to reason with her. He says, “I have nothing to do with the terrorist attacks!”

Here is a transcript of their exchange in English:

Woman: “It should be banned. That’s all there is to it. I tell you, things can’t go on like this and I hope they’ll change. Many people hope they’ll change. There are too many problems; you can’t just come in here like this… [sound cuts off]”

Man: “I have nothing to do with the terrorist attacks, with all that.”

Woman: “I don’t care, I’m not talking about the attacks right now. I’m talking about a sense of decency!”

Man: “Decency? I can dress how I please. There are people who dress like hippies, no one bothers them. There are rastas [Editor’s Note: short for Rastafarians], no one bothers them.”

Woman: “But that has nothing to do with religion.”

Man: “Rastafarianism is a religion.”

Woman: “Nonsense!”

Man: “It’s true, Rastafarianism is a religion.”

Woman: “What are you talking about! It’s not a religion.”

Man: “Of course it is! You’ve never heard of it?”

Woman: “Nonsense! You should educate yourself!”

Man: “You should read up on it, ma’am…”

Woman: “Oh don’t you worry – I read!”

Man: “And what about Christians, do Christians dress okay? And Jewish people, don’t they dress in Orthodox ways? Ma’am, we have the right to dress however we want.”

Woman: “No, it’s going to change. It’s illegal. Some things are illegal in France.”

Man: “If you say so…”

Woman: “Burqas, they’re illegal in France.”

Man: “You keep saying ‘illegal, illegal’… I’m a public servant. I can show you my Paris city worker card.”

Woman: “Well, I don’t know how they let you work like that. Good for you! But you shouldn’t work dressed like that. I don’t care! Good for you if you work. But you shouldn’t dress like that for work if you respect the country you live in! That’s all.”

Man: “But ma’am, I can do what I want, I live in a free country. I don’t bother anyone.”

Woman: “… Your clothing bothers me.”

Man: “But I’ve never hurt anyone, ma’am. I’ve never hurt anyone.”

Another passenger: “There are people who wear kippas, there are people who wear crosses.”

Woman: “There are practically none!”

Man: “Why are you attacking me like this?’

Woman: “Because you’re attacking me with your clothing! Your clothing is attacking me.”

Man: “Well then why don’t you just change seats.”

Burqas, as well as all garments that cover the face, are banned in public places in France. Qarmis, however, are not.

Several media outlets have started lists of the Islamophobic acts that have taken place in France in the past few days. These include insults scrawled on Muslim places of worship, anti-Muslim protests, and the attack of a veiled woman in Marseille. Dozens of such acts have been reported, it is nevertheless difficult to know their exact number. Meanwhile, French police are worried about the influx of false accusations being filed, as shown by this reporter’s tweet:

Translation: “A Parisian policeman: ‘We’re overwhelmed by the number of false accusations. People denouncing their neighbour for wearing a djellaba…’”

In July, the National Observatory against Islamophobia reported that 274 anti-Muslim acts and threats were counted for the first semester of 2015. This number is 281 percent higher than during the same period the year before.